Bill O'Brien will look to continue his winning ways following losses when the Penn State Nittany Lions host Purdue this Saturday in Happy Valley.
Penn State is coming off a loss to Minnesota in which it was shut out in the second half, despite Zach Zwinak's 150-yard performance. The Nittany Lions fell to 5-4 with that loss, matching their loss total from 2012.
The Boilermakers lost last week to Iowa, sliding to 1-8 on the year. On the bright side, they scored for the first time since October 12, after being shut out by both Ohio State and Michigan State.
If Penn State wants to finish strong, it will need to get the ball rolling against a Purdue team that finds itself struggling in head coach Darrell Hazell's first year.
Purdue is looking for its first Big Ten win of the year and could come in with a "nothing to lose" mentality, making it more dangerous than expected.
Time: Noon ET
Place: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Penn State Network Affiliates
Spread: Penn State is a big favorite in this one, spotting Purdue 21.5 points, according to VegasInsider.com.
Score some points
Sounds simple enough, but Penn State is averaging just 18 points per game in its last three contests. Another 10-point performance like the one against Minnesota and Purdue could be celebrating in Beaver Stadium.
Get off the field. Stay on the field
Last week, the Penn State defense allowed Minnesota to convert on 53 percent of its third-down attempts, while the offense only managed one first down in nine tries. The result: Minnesota held the ball for over 35 minutes, wearing down the defense and limiting Penn State's offensive opportunities. More often than not, you can look at third-down conversion rates after a game and tell who was victorious.
Hold the ball
Purdue quarterbacks have thrown 11 interceptions, and the Boilermakers as a team have fumbled the ball 13 times in nine games. They simply aren't talented enough to play sloppy and still have a shot at winning.
Out of 125 FBS teams, Purdue ranks 97th in passing yards, 122nd in rushing yards, 123rd in points scored and 112th in points allowed. It'll need to play much better than those numbers indicate for any chance of winning this weekend, even against an average Nittany Lions team.
RBs Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak
Penn State's two-headed monster has accounted for 423 yards in the last two games and will now face the 112th-ranked rushing defense in the country. Look for one or both of them to have big days.
WR Geno Lewis
Call it a hunch, but Purdue is going to do everything it can to slow down Allen Robinson, and somebody is going to benefit from the lack of attention.
DE Anthony Zettel
Zettel has been pushing the other defensive ends all year and plays aggressively. This could work out well against a porous Purdue offensive line.
RB Akeem Hunt
The junior running back leads Purdue in rushing with 325 yards on the season and is second on the team with 313 receiving yards. He also leads the Boilermakers in receptions.
DB Ricardo Allen
The senior defensive back is the leader in the secondary and has three interceptions to go with four tackles for loss and a sack.
Bill O’Brien on Hackenberg: “This guy over the next three weeks I believe you’ll see improvement and you’ll see him get better and better.”— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) November 12, 2013
Hazell on Hackenberg:"They do a lotta half‑field reads with him, so he doesn't have to scan across the field..kinda protectin him a lil bit"— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) November 13, 2013
O'Brien: "We don't have any problem focusing on Purdue." Complimented coach Hazell specifically in his first year in West Lafayette.— Collegian Footblog (@psufootblog) November 12, 2013
Penn State's Bill O'Brien says Zach Zwinak ran hard last week. "We have two guys who we think can run the ball in Zach and Billy."— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) November 12, 2013
Purdue's Darrell Hazell says many of his family members in Cinnaminson Township, N.J., grew up as Penn State fans. Will be at game Saturday— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) November 12, 2013
Whether you're in the camp that thinks Penn State's defense is the root of all evil this year, or you believe that the offense isn't doing enough to help it out, you're probably going to enjoy this game.
Darrell Hazell did a terrific job at Kent State and will probably get things turned around for the Boilermakers, but they are in a period of transition.
The Nittany Lions are far from world-beaters, but Purdue is averaging fewer than seven points per game in five Big Ten contests, and its only win was a 20-14 victory over FCS Indiana State. It's failed to score more than 10 points in five of its games and has allowed more than 30 points in seven games so far.
The average score for a Purdue game is 37-12.
PREDICTION: Penn State 34, Purdue 13
All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.